Seize The Day

Worried about those wretched unemployed trapped at home huddled over the one bar heater of Centrelink mercy and societal compassion, confidence ebbing, electricity bill rising, immured in a prison of no opportunities? Look no further. Worried about the moronic earn or learn mantra of the right? Read on.

 

Worried about the logical contradiction inherent in getting people off the dole and into a deformed and rapidly shrinking labour market? Now let’s not overthink the situation. But please read on. Worried about the racket which has cadres of skilled migrant workers swelling the workforce via corrupt employers fiddling visa requirements. Worry no more. Independent senator Day has come up with a winner. Trade away your rights.

 

On ABC Radio National, this morning, Day proposed that unemployed people should hop into their local workshops, business enterprises and other places of work and offer themselves to bosses at bargain rates. Yes, in Day’s holler for a collar scheme, workers on the dole could trade away such luxurious fripperies as sick pay and minimum rates in order to secure employment. Stoically enduring the vicissitudes of fate such as the hunger pangs occasioned by not having the funds to buy such luxuries as groceries, or lack of a local workplace, lack of skills, qualifications and experience, new recruits would flood the workforce. Casting aside crippling self-doubt, self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness, the unemployed could strike a bargain rate with bosses by making themselves cheaper than the going rate. It’s a capitalist’s wet dream. The ultimate profit incentive is a compliant work force keen to undercut itself.

 

Imagine the scene. It is a cold winter morning. You are at home under your doona dreading another day. Then you hear your ABC. A new day dawns for you. Opportunity is knocking. You throw off the doona of dread and self-doubt. You dress yourself in those work clothes you keep neatly pressed at the ready for such occasions.  You race out of the door and down the street on your bicycle. In a few minutes you are in job central, those havens of industry and commercial enterprise found without exception in every suburb and regional town across the nation.

 

You exude confidence. You are assertive. All the old habits of doubt have been extinguished. You stick your head around the door of your local metal foundry and offer your services. There’s a guillotine in there and the workshop has a foundry. Sparks are flying and it is noisy and dirty but you can temper your complete lack of experience with your willingness to cheapen yourself. No doubt in the process, you will be warmly applauded by those workers whose rates you are undercutting. No doubt also that the foreman will welcome the addition of another risky liability to his already barely adept health and safety regime. Dropping tools, downing pencils, dismissing clients with a wave, bosses and forepeople would rise up as one in their welcome, calling across the factory floor, shed or office. What’s that you hear?

 

Piss off you clown.

 

Already dubbed by some as “seize the day” and by others as “ups a daisy” the scheme appears a perfect fit in today’s politics so many ways. First it is designed to illustrate what we have always suspected. The answer is always simple. Plain as day. But politicians just won’t see it. Those clowns in Canberra, those bloody unionists and all the rest of them are buggering up the country with their stupid rules and regulations. If they just listened to ordinary people, (and more talkback radio) they would realise that the answer is simple common sense. And the answer is practical. Practical in this case being people doing things rather than, God forbid, thinking, or talking about them.

 

Arrestingly simple also is the logic. But dazzling as it may appear, the bargain-priced worker of today would quickly find herself under-priced and replaced by the undercutting applicant of tomorrow. Wages would spiral downwards to a new sub sub subsistence levels. Whilst captains of industry would no doubt be cheering, the next logical development would be even more attractive. Job applicants would pay the boss for a job. Of course, lacking funds would mean that schemes would be set up to allow job seekers to borrow the money to buy a job. Christopher Pyne, doubtless, would skip nimbly into the breach to design a HECS type scheme where loans were made available at market rates. Banks would rush to embrace the new opportunity to lend. Bank boffins would outdo each other in packaging and on-selling such debts on the open market. Expect this item on the next G20 agenda.     

 

 So well done Bob! Expect Santamaria’s ghost to genuflect in its grave. May captains of industry applaud you. Let the shock jocks fall over themselves to invite you on air. And let us all applaud the jobless as they lift themselves out of sinful self-inflicted idleness into virtuous productivity. Workers of the world divide, you have nothing to lose but your gains – everything you have ever gained. Let our nation seize the Day. 

 

Brigid

From the moment we first saw her we knew we would have to take her home. Chained up all day, fed only scraps, she was thin even for a whippet. Farm dogs are seldom pampered but this creature was clearly an outcast. Accused of chasing sheep, she had been banished to a makeshift kennel several sizes too small in the corner of the yard. At the mercy of the elements and worse, she’d had several litters to the top dog, working Border Collie, Pal but her puppies had all been drowned. Her coat bore the ragged scars of high-speed encounters with barbed wire. She had been roughly stitched up with baling twine by a farmer, unwilling to waste money on a vet. Yet when she looked up into your face, you could see beauty. You sensed nobility. More than the injustice, the suffering, the indignity, something spoke to you, a voice too powerful to ignore.

We knew then and there we just had to act. Brigid was a creature from another time, another place. Refined, slender, aristocratic, in profile she resembled the hounds who hunted with the Pharaohs. Her deep brown eyes pleaded with you. Take me home with you, they said. I don’t belong here. Rescue me from all this. Right these wrongs at once!

My partner S, who has gathered up strays since childhood, knew exactly what we had to do. The farmer seemed keen to get rid of her. No matter that we already had two dogs. Brigid had to be found a home. Our home. We inherited a scarred, emaciated honey-coloured creature with Gina Lollobrigida eyes.

Brigid was beautiful, she was regal and she was unbelievably highly-strung. She was especially wary with men. It was to be a good two years of hard work before she showed signs of relaxing into domestication or returning affection. In due course, she adopted us. She became our dog.
A whippet knows only two speeds, flat out and full stop. Brigid quickly taught us that. She could spend all day settled comfortably in the lounge room provided her basket permitted her to see the mistress of the house working in the kitchen. Give her a fire and a comfortable bed in an expensive dog basket and she would happily snooze all day.

Don’t expect a whippet to act as a watch dog. True, they are sight hounds but they are disinclined to look out for any intruder. Be prepared instead for a dog that spends all day lounging about watching its master. Be prepared for a lot of sleeping. Just accept, it will soon let you know, that it is a glorious creature which is born to be doted upon; born to be adored.

Outside it was a different story. A whippet’s pace is legendary. Brigid could run like the wind. But only when it suited her. Get her into the paddock, let her off the leash and provided she was in the mood, off she would dash, crashing through the high grass at top speed in a series of joyous, swooping arcs. Ears back, chest out, legs drumming the turf like a runaway race horse. You could tell she was running for the love of it. The thrill of the chase was there even when there was nothing to chase but the joy of running itself. It was mad, it was manic. It was an ecstatic celebration of being and being free. It made you happy just to look at her.

Then one day Brigid surprised us with a gift. We had not long before bought twenty-five acres with a brown brick seventies house on it. The house was ugly but the acres, the freedom and the privacy were wonderful. At the front corner in a nook by the water tank where we would sit to drink champagne and soak up the winter sun, Brigid presented us with a freshly-killed rabbit. It was an unexpected gift. And it happened only once.

Doubtless, a whippet has an instinct to kill rabbits. You might even say it’s in their DNA. But in this case it seemed like gratitude. It was as if Brigid was thanking us for rescuing her from a life of hardship. Thanking us for setting her free. It made us give thanks, too. And not just for Brigid. Her gift made us stop and reflect on the ways of all creatures to be themselves and how they should be able to enjoy the right to simply be. How no-one ever owns any dog ever but how if you treat them right, they give you the gift of their devotion. And how they know a thing or two about living, about what it means to be alive in the moment and how such moments endure for ever. Forget the kings and queens of fabled antiquity with all their worldly wealth, you will be rich beyond all measure.